Military Bases Have High Concentrations of Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)
***Updated 8/29/18 to include video***
Analies Dyjak | Policy Nerd
Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) have been receiving a ton of media attention throughout this past year. PFAS are a category of toxic contaminants that have invaded public and private drinking water systems across the entire country. Military bases are extremely susceptible to this type of contamination because of necessary on-base activities. If you would like to learn more about what PFAS are, their health effects, and if they're regulated, please click here.
Why Do Military Bases Have High Concentrations of Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)?
Military bases have historically had issues with pollution, due to the nature of on-base activities. Municipal fire departments also travel to nearby military bases because they provide an open, secure area to train. So not only are military personnel being directly exposed to PFAS chemicals in water, but so are local fire departments. The Department of Defence isn’t necessarily to blame for the high rates of contamination of PFAS on military bases. The Manufacturers of PFAS-containing fire fighting foam who actively sell to the DOD are greatly at fault. Because there is no effective alternative on the market, the military has no choice but to continue purchasing and using these products. Unlike many other countries, the United States doesn’t use the precautionary principle in chemical manufacturing. This means that chemicals are introduced to the market before toxicological due diligence is completed. Most of the time it takes someone getting extremely sick for manufacturers to even begin to pay attention.
More often than not, military bases have their own underground private wells that provide drinking water to families living on base, rather than being apart of a public drinking water system. Fire fighting foam can either directly percolate into soil, or run off into surrounding surface water sources. Water from contaminated soil naturally recharges on-base drinking water wells, which families consume on a daily basis.
What Is The Department of Defense Doing About Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) on Military Bases?
The most recent data provided by the DOD stated that 99% people receiving non-DOD-treated water were served by systems with no violations, whereas only 89% of people receiving DOD-treated water were served by systems with no violations. It’s important to note that these data are from bases that voluntarily tested for PFAS chemicals in water, but they do however reiterate that military bases have higher concentrations of this contaminant than other areas in the country. In October of 2017, the US Government Accountability Office reported that the Department of Defense has taken action on PFAS. DOD has directly shut down wells or provided filtration to 11 military installations. This is definitely a step in the right direction, but there are over 400 military bases in the United States that are still contaminated. Approximately 3 million people in the US drink water provided by the DOD. Not only are active military personnel at risk, husbands, wives and children are being adversely impacted by PFAS chemicals in water. Again, manufacturers of these dangerous chemicals are mostly to blame for such high concentrations of PFAS contamination on military bases.
What Are Public Officials Doing About Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)?
EPA set a Lifetime Health Advisory Level of 70 parts per trillion for both PFOA and PFOS. The rule of thumb for PFAS is that the sum of the category of contaminants should be no higher than 70 parts per trillion. ATSDR believes this level should be reduced to 20 parts per trillion for drinking water. Again, Lifetime Health Advisory Levels and Minimum Risk Levels are non-enforceable limits that municipalities are not required to follow. DOD has not developed their own standard for PFAS in drinking water and therefore follow the non-enforceable national level of 70 parts per trillion. DOD is not at all incentivized to create a standard or even test for PFAS, because of the outrageous mitigation expenses.Other Articles We Think You Might Enjoy:
PFAS: What You Need To Know
Recap of EPA's 2018 PFAS National Leadership Summit
PFAS: Toxicological Profile
Parchment, Michigan: Drinking Water Contaminated With PFAS
Analies Dyjak | Policy Nerd
This past year, GenX, Per and Polyfluroalkyl Substances (PFAS), and other contaminants that fall into the broader category of Perfluorinated Compounds, have received major media coverage. Information regarding municipal water quality can quickly become obscured, so the goal of this article is to summarize key news components and scientific data.
Parchment, Michigan: Drinking Water Contaminated With PFAS
Sunday, July 29th, the Governor’s office announced a state of emergency for residents in the City of Parchment and Cooper Township, Michigan. Kalamazoo County Health Department detected PFAS in Parchments drinking water supply at concentrations as high as 1,587 parts per trillion. For a bit of perspective, this is almost 23 times higher than the Lifetime Health Advisory Level set by EPA and 79 times higher than the Minimum Risk Level set by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.
City officials stated that the next course of action involves draining Parchments entire water supply. The City of Kalamazoo will then connect their water system to Parchment, and begin flushing the system until levels are below the Lifetime Health Advisory Level of 70 parts per trillion. Residents are being advised to not drink Parchment municipal water until further notice. The City of Parchment sources its drinking water from 3 groundwater wells in Cooper Township. Kalamazoo also uses groundwater, which is highly susceptible to this same type of contamination. Additionally, because this category of contaminants is unregulated, municipalities are not required to test for it. Kalamazoo did not test for PFAS in their most recent Consumer Confidence Report.
What Are Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)?
Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) are a category of “emerging contaminants,” which means they have been detected in the environment but the risk to human health is unknown. GenX, PFOA, and PFOS are all common contaminants that fall under the category of PFAS. These compounds have been used in industrial and consumer products since the early 1950’s. Scotchgard, Teflon, firefighting foam, metal plating, heat/water repellent products, and stain resistant fabrics are associated with this category of contaminants. PFAS are extremely persistent in the environment, which means they are highly resistant to degradation processes.
Are Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) Regulated?
No. The entire class of contaminants is currently unregulated. This means that municipalities and state agencies are not required to test for it.
What Are The Health Effects of Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)?
According to a study done by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), PFAS exposure is associated with various adverse health effects, including an increased risk of cancer, lowered fertility rates, increased cholesterol, and developmental issues in infants and young children.
What Are Officials Doing About Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)?
EPA set a Lifetime Health Advisory Level of 70 parts per trillion for both PFOA and PFOS. The rule of thumb for PFAS is that the sum of the category of contaminants should be no higher than 70 parts per trillion. ATSDR believes this level should be reduced to 20 parts per trillion. Again, Lifetime Health Advisory Levels and Minimum Risk Levels are non-enforceable limits. As we know, the regulatory process in the United States can take decades, so these values should be taken with a grain of salt. Several types of PFAS appeared on the Third Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule, which is the only progress we’ve seen in terms of regulating this category of contaminants.
Want To Learn More About Perfluorinated Compounds?
Take advantage of Hydroviv's “help no matter what” approach to technical support! Go to hydroviv.com and use our live chat feature. Our Water Nerds will gladly answer any questions you might have regarding PFAS or anything else water related. If you live in Michigan and want more information about PFAS in your area, we recommend reaching out to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Toxicology Hotline at 800-648-6942.Other Article We Think You Might Enjoy:
Military Bases Show High Levels of PFAS Contamination
Recap of the 2018 PFAS National Leadership Summit and Engagement
GenX Contamination In The Cape Fear River: What You Need To Know
Chemours To Pay $13 Million To The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality For Years Of PFAS Pollution
Analies Dyjak | Policy Nerd
Our Water Nerds have been closely following the environmental and public health disaster in North Carolina for a while now. This article provides an overview of the recent consent order, and some background information on what's going on in North Carolina.
The Chemours Plant in Fayetteville, North Carolina has been discharging various per and polyfluoroalkyl substances (also known as PFAS) for decades. PFAS are a category of emerging contaminants that are found in some of the most popular consumer products such as Scotchgard, Gore-Tex, Teflon, and other stain/water resistant products. PFAS is also an important ingredient in firefighting foam, which has been a major source of water contamination throughout the country. In recent years, a replacement chemical for PFOA called GenX has dominated the conversation, particularly in North Carolina. In November 2018, EPA admitted that GenX is “suggestive” of cancer, which is significant for residents who have been unknowingly exposed.
$13 Million Awarded to NCDEQ
Chemours is awarding $13 million to the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality in the form of civil penalties and investigative costs. In comparison to other PFAS-related settlements, this is by far one of the smallest. In early 2018, 3M paid the state of Minnesota $850 Million in environmental degradation. In 2017, DuPont was involved in a $670.7 million settlement in the Mid-Ohio Valley region for PFAS water contamination.
Overview Of The Consent Order
The Consent Order clearly lays out a timeline of air emission goals and wastewater discharge stipulations. Chemours’ National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit was revoked in early 2017 and the new Consent Order prohibits any sort of wastewater discharge until a NPDES permit is reallocated. Chemours must also create laboratory methods and test standards for all PFAS compounds released by the Fayetteville plant. Basic remediation plans must be agreed upon by the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, North Carolina River Keepers, and Chemours. Chemours will also pay for water filtration for water filtration for residents on private wells. Concentrations of GenX must be above 140 parts per trillion or any updated health advisory, in order to be eligible for a filter. GenX is not the only PFAS compound detected in the Cape Fear area, and the consent order addresses that. the Residents can also be eligible for filtration if other PFAS compounds are detected in well water over 10 parts per trillion individually, and 70 parts per trillion combined. NCDEQ is currently seeking public comment regarding the recent settlement.
How Are Cape Fear Residents Responding?
Cape Fear Public Utility Authority (CFPUA) created a comprehensive breakdown of the Chemours consent order. The utility provider acknowledged that the settlement did not go far enough to cover the scope of GenX and PFAS water contamination in the Cape Fear area. In a press release, CFPUA talked about how the consent order did not acknowledge the PFAS sediment pollution at the bottom of the Cape Fear River. Any sort of dredge or fill could disturb the sediment and create GenX concentrations to sky rocket in drinking water. Local non-profit groups are also not in agreement with the Chemours settlement because they believe it does not go far enough to mitigate the scope of PFAS water contamination. The current consent order places most of the mitigative costs water utility providers which would of course be paid for by taxpayers.
In early November of 2018, EPA released a draft toxicity report for GenX, proposing a threshold of 80 parts per trillion for drinking water. The concentration deemed “safe” by North Carolina and Chemours is almost two times higher than what the EPA is proposing as safe. Health and regulatory agencies know very little about the adverse health effects of GenX and other PFAS compounds. It’s up to consumers to decide the best course of action to protect themselves and their families.Other Articles We Think You Might Enjoy:
EPA Admits That GenX Is Linked To Cancer
Military Bases and PFAS
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Breaking: 3M Pays Minnesota $850M For Decades Of Water Contamination
Analies Dyjak | Policy Analyst
This past Tuesday, February 20th, 2018, a lengthy lawsuit of eight-years ended in an $850 million settlement in favor of the state of Minnesota.
If you’re unfamiliar with the water crisis in Minnesota, here’s a quick recap:
In 2010 the state of Minnesota filed suit against 3M, a manufacturing company based out of Maplewood, Minnesota. The lawsuit came about because of allegations that 3M had been knowingly and improperly disposing of perfluorinated chemicals (PFC’s) such as perflurooctanoic acid (PFOA), and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) for decades. This probably sounds familiar to GenX contamination in North Carolina. 3M publicly stated their phase-out of PFC-like compounds in 2000. In 2004, 67,000 households in communities such as Lake Elmo, Oakdale, Woodbury and Cottage Grove had traces of PFC’s in their drinking water. In 2010, the state of Minnesota initially asked for $5 billion from 3M for natural resource and environmental degradation. In a last ditch effort to avoid trial, the state of Minnesota was granted an $850 million settlement on behalf of 3M. 3M claims that the settlement doesn’t make them guilty of poisoning thousands of people in Minnesota, but rather to show their commitment to environmental stewardship.
How Did The PFC Contamination Get Into Drinking Water?
3M had been disposing of PFC’s in their privately owned landfills as well as certain public landfills in Washington County since the 1950’s. It’s uncertain if 3M disclosed to the public landfills that PFOA’s and PFOS’s would be a part of their industrial hazardous waste permits. Additionally, cap technology in the in the 1950’s and up to the 1970’s was not nearly as advanced as it is today. Once the chemicals were disposed of in the landfill, over time they leached through the lining and into surrounding groundwater.
Health Effects of PFC’s, PFOA’s and PFOS’s
Health experts in Minnesota have seen higher rates of cancers, leukemia, premature births and lower fertility rates in suburbs near 3M manufacturing. This is a pretty constant trend when looking into long term exposure of perfluorinated chemicals. A University of California, Berkeley professor reported a 30% increase in low birth-weights and premature births between the years of 2001 and 2006 in Oakdale, a suburb of a 3M manufacturing plant.
Where Will the Money GO?
According to the Minnesota Attorney General, the settlement will be used to fund projects involving drinking water and water sustainability (whatever that means). $850 million may seem like a substantial peace offering, but the state came to the conclusive amount of $5 billion for a reason. This was the well-researched amount of money that state experts determined for damage done by 3M. Does this mean that the drinking water problem is completely fixed? No. It’s not guaranteed that every household will receive compensation and funding for a proper filtration system. The same UC Berkeley professor estimated the economic cost of the pollution; $1.5 billion in natural resource damages, $830 million in financial damages to existing households, and $309 million for people moving to the area by 2050. So although the settlement is significant, it won’t nearly be able to remediate all existing damages.
The settlement in Minnesota is a win for the environmental and the millions of individuals affected by 3M. There is still uncertainty regarding how the settlement money will be allocated, and which projects will be prioritized.
Brief History of 3M in Minnesota
3M initially began producing PFC’s in the 1950’s. Of course commercial-scale production of PFC’s were almost completely unregulated during this time. The Clean Water Act and National Environmental Policy Act weren’t codified until 1970. Knowledge of PFC-like contaminants was minimal and economic pressure was high.
Prior to any knowledge of PFC’s, 3M focused its attention on remediation efforts to volatile organic compounds (VOC’s). VOC’s were first found in groundwater in Washington County in 1966. Because of this, state permitting agencies and 3M were all aware of the hydrology of this area.
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Why Reverse Osmosis Water Filters Probably Don't Make Sense For You
Editor's Note: With lead, chromium 6, PFAS, and GenX contamination gaining a lot of press, a lot of people have been rushing to buy reverse osmosis (RO) systems to filter their water. While some RO systems are a good option for some people, we hear from a lot of people who weren't prepared for the downsides, and end up replacing it with a Hydroviv under sink water filter.
This article lists the most common things that we hear from people who regret buying a reverse osmosis water filters.
Not All Reverse Osmosis Water Are EffectiveIn recent years, reverse osmosis water filters have gained a great deal of popularity among homeowners because there's a feeling that they "filter everything." Unfortunately, this is simply not true, but this belief has created a "race to the bottom" for water filter companies to create the cheapest system that uses reverse osmosis, so they can cash in on Amazon. The term "reverse osmosis" describes the technology used, and does not tell you anything about performance. The truth is... some are rated to remove toxic things like lead/chromium 6 (like this one), some aren't rated to remove much of anything (this one is only rated to remove chlorine taste TDS).
If You Don't Change The Prefilters Religiously, You Will Ruin The Reverse Osmosis Membrane
The prefilters on an RO system actually protect the membrane in the reverse osmosis stage. If a reverse osmosis user doesn't change these prefilters in time, chlorine "breaks through" and flows into the RO membrane. Unfortunately, most RO membranes are irreversibly damaged by even low levels of free chlorine, and the entire reverse osmosis module will need to be replaced. Also, much to the surprise of users, there isn't really an easy way to know if this degradation has taken place. We've heard from hundreds of reverse osmosis users in DC, Pittsburgh, and NYC who were shocked to find high levels of lead coming out of their RO when they did a lead test. It turned out that they changed out their prefilters too late, which ruined their reverse osmosis membrane without any kind of notification.
You'll Need To Drill Your Countertop And Drain Pipe During Installation
Most people who buy a reverse osmosis system assume that they’ll be able to handle the installation. Many quickly change their mind after learning that they’ll need to drill a hole in their home’s drain pipe (for the filtration system’s waste line) and another hole in their countertop or sink (for a dedicated faucet). Unless you are confident in your abilities, be sure to budget a couple hundred dollars for professional installation. You certainly don’t want to ruin a granite counter top or crack a drain pipe. If you have a stone countertop and you're having a plumber install a system for you, make sure their insurance will cover the event that they crack the stone. Contrast this with a Hydroviv system, which connects to to your existing faucet in 15 minutes, no drilling or plumbing experience needed.
Your Under Sink Storage Will Disappear
If you have a garbage disposal, you’ll want to take measurements to make sure that the filtration system will fit under the sink. In addition to the manifold that holds the prefilters and reverse osmosis components, you’ll need to allow space for the storage tank, which is larger than a basketball. There's a reason why most pictures of installed reverse osmosis systems do not show a garbage disposal. For some people, this isn’t a big deal, but for others (particularly in cities where space is limited), it’s a major problem.
Flow Rates Are Slower Than Expected
One of the most common problems that we hear from people who purchase reverse osmosis systems is that the water pressure is very bad and they end up not using the filtered water, which defeats the entire purpose of having a filtration system.
Your Water Usage Will Go Up
Reverse osmosis systems work by using pressure to force water through a membrane, which leaves behind impurities in a solution that many referred to as brine or backwash. This solution leaves flows through a waste line that connects to your home’s drain pipe, so the removed contaminants go right down the drain. People who draw their water from private wells are particularly troubled by this. Most consumer-grade systems generate 3-15 gallons of waste water per gallon of produced purified water.
The bottom line is that if you're looking at reverse osmosis water filters, you want to make sure that you get one that works, and works for your family. We're obviously biased (as our products don't use reverse osmosis technology), but if you are determined on getting a reverse osmosis system, the only competitor that we recommend is APEC. We've tested this system (it works), and they also engineer and assemble their systems in the US (like us).
If you have any questions about the advantages and disadvantages of a reverse osmosis system and whether or not a reverse osmosis system is the best way to filter your water, we encourage you to take advantage of Hydroviv’s “Help No Matter What” approach to technical support. We promise to help you select an effective water filter system, even if it’s not one that we sell. Reach out through live chat or by emailing us (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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BREAKING: EPA Admits GenX Linked To Cancer
Analies Dyjak | Policy Nerd
Our blog has been following PFAS contaminants such as the GenX chemical for months now, often reporting on new developments before mainstream news.
Today marks an important milestone: EPA has released a draft toxicity profile for GenX. This long-awaited toxicity report contains critical information for many states who have been seeking answers on this harmful contaminant.
EPA’s Draft Toxicity Assessments for GenX and PFBS:
EPA determined a candidate Chronic Reference Dose of 0.00008 mg/kg-day. A reference dose is the daily oral intake not anticipated to cause negative health effects over a lifetime. A reference dose is not a carcinogenic risk factor, however, EPA states that the toxicity data for GenX are “suggestive of cancer.” According to the draft report, oral exposure in animals had negative health effects on the kidney, blood, immune system, developing fetus, and liver. The draft toxicity report also provided information on PFBS, which is a replacement chemical for PFOS. The candidate Chronic Reference Dose for PFBS is 0.01 mg/kg-day, and there was insufficient data to determine its carcinogenic potential.
What Is GenX?GenX is part of a category of contaminants called PFAS, or per and polyfluoroalkyl substances. The GenX chemical linked to cancer has gained national attention since being discovered in the Cape Fear River in June of 2017.
PFAS have historically been used in consumer products like Scotchgard, Gore-Tex, Teflon, and even the inside of popcorn bags. PFAS are also used in firefighting foam, which is the major source of its pollution in waterways across the country.
The Chemours plant in Fayetteville, North Carolina produces refrigerants, ion exchange membranes, and other fluoroproducts. They have been discharging liquid effluent into the Cape Fear River for years, which has contaminated drinking water for the entire area. GenX is the replacement chemical for PFOA. After PFOA was discovered to be toxic, manufacturers addressed the issue by making an equally-as toxic replacement. Manufacturers of PFAS have been doing this for years, which is why there are so many different variations present in the environment.
Is GenX Federally Regulated By EPA?
No. This means that municipalities are not required to test for PFBS or GenX in water. Additionally, this draft toxicity level is not a lifetime health advisory level, which states would be more inclined to follow.
When Will A Drinking Water Standard Be Determined?
Don’t hold your breath on anytime soon! The regulatory process can take decades, especially for such a persistent contaminant in the environment. This is more than enough time for adverse health effects to set in, and we recommend consumers do everything they can to learn about their water and protect themselves, rather than wait for the government to step in.
What Does This Mean For Me?
EPA is in the very early stages of determining a regulation or even health advisory for GenX. This draft toxicity level needs to go through public comment so that states, tribes, and municipalities can offer input and recommendations. If you want to see third-party data on filters that remove GenX in water and other PFAS, click HERE.Other Articles About GenX:
Timeline: GenX In North Carolina
ASTDR Toxicological Profile for PFAS
GenX Contamination In Drinking Water: What You Need To Know